Thursday, July 21, 2011

Surgery… (Otherwise known as my attempts to further the progress of SOTD)

That's right; surgery. Not for me (directly), but for my novel-in-progress (respectfully)… which, if you think about it, can be just as painful to a writer as can the normal meaning behind the referral of the word. Hmm….

If you follow my blog, then you already know, but SOTD is going through a major facelift… actually, it's more like an entire "body-lift" if you want to get technical. That's right, folks… I'm rewriting. Again. Like, for the 15th time. But this is old news; I've been working on the rewrite since January and you all know that. ;)

What's not old news is that at long last I'm making progress again. I mentioned in my last post that I finally beat the dratted slum that had me trapped in chapter 3. (I mean, I was really getting tired of the number 3! :P) I'm so happy!

Now, the trouble I'm having doesn't have to do with moving on so much as it has to do with editing. I can't wait to move on!!! I have SO much epicness planned for the near future of the book, it makes me want to type! Like, Now! And not stop until late night… or early morning; that is, whenever I pause to look at the clock and realize that I really should be sleeping or I'll be a zombie in the morning. 

It's just that I can't seem to turn off my inner editor. I've tried – I really have – but she just insists that I pay attention to her. And unfortunately Inspiration is in league with Inner-Editor and refuses to let me start typing the next part of the story until I realize and fix the problems that are in the first scene of chapter 3. 

So I've come up with a plan. I've been concocting it for several days now – see my messy hair and crazy, red-rimmed eyes? That's because I've gone all "mad scientist" while working out this blue print of how to foil Inner-Editor's frenzied attempts to stop my progress. I've decided that I'm going to post the first part of chapter 3 here on my blog. I'll let you guys be my editor – if you see anything that stands out to you, good or bad, let me know about it. If you tell me what you think of the excerpt and I work out the kinks you point out, maybe Inner-Editor will be forced to shut down for awhile! Then I can move on unhindered!

So to randomly quote Disney's The Emperor's New Groove in my best Esma voice, "Oh, I know! I'll turn Inner-Editor into a flea – a harmless little flea. And then I'll put that flea in a box. And then I'll put that box in another box. And then I'll mail that box to myself. And when it arrives? Ahahaha! I'll SMASH IT WITH A HAMMER!!!

"It's brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, I tell you! Genius, I say! *poof* Or, (to save time and my sanity) I'll just foil Inner Editor by doing THIS! Take it, my loyal bloggy friends! FEEL THE POWER!!!"


Chapter 3
(Currently Untitled)

Thunk, thunk, thunk!
“Ungggh.”  Curron rolled over and buried his face in his hands.  His entire body ached as if he’d been bucked off a horse and then trampled.  Metal clattered all around him when he moved and something heavy dragged at his wrists.
                        Clang! Thunk, thunk, thunk.
“Téagh, that old rat.”  Grimacing, Curron pushed himself up to a sitting position and rubbed the back of his head; upright, it felt like a large boulder balanced precariously on an insufficient neck. Leaving his eyes closed, he shouted, “Cut the noise, old man!  You could wake the dead with that racket.  I’m up already!”
Normally this would have earned him a retort; something like, “I’ll take what help I can get, ye lout.  If it’s not from the likes of you, then the dead might as well try their hands at it.”  Today, however, there was nothing.  The hammering noise sounded through the room like the muted march of soldiers’ feet, but the old Stable Master never replied.
Curron opened one eye to a slit and immediately wished he hadn’t.  Blood pounded in his head, sending fractal colors and bursts of pain skittering before his eyes.  The small room tilted sideways, melded together in myriad shades of grey and flickering orange, and then started to spin.  He quickly closed his eyes again and leaned back against a wall.   
                       What is this place? he wondered.  Certainly not his room in the stable loft.  For one thing, this room’s floor was made of stone, not wood, and instead of the familiar smell of horse and hay, there was a strange musty scent fused with the underlying, bitter tang of old iron.    For another thing, the room was entirely too cold and completely bare.  What had happened to his bed and the brazier that stood in the corner filled with hot coals?  Where was the trunk that once belonged to Seliah?  And what about the old saddle he’d been repairing under Téagh’s careful instruction?  Téagh treated most people to a dose of crude arrogance whether he knew them or not, but Curron was different.  The retorts remained, but there was respect too, and a distorted form of kindness.  The saddle was to be Curron’s once it was repaired; he couldn't bear the thought of losing it.
His memories all clouded together like a thick fog.  They shifted and churned, darted and flitted like shadow-figures playing hide-n-catch, but they refused to align.  If this isn’t my room, he thought, and it most certainly isn’t – then where am I?
Thunk, clang!  Thunk, thunk, thunk.
The noise jarred Curron’s thoughts.  He opened his eyes and the flitting shadows vanished, replaced by dread that tightened in his gut like a knot of writhing snakes.  There was something very wrong with that hammering sound: something menacing.
He pushed himself away from the wall and looked around the room.    The space was square and barely more than three paces wide in both directions – just big enough for him to lie out straight either way.  It felt more like a tall sepulcher than it did a room or even a cell.  And with the hammering noise reverberating around the walls, he could almost imagine the sound was actually the bony fists of some crypt’s long dead occupants trying to get free. 
Shivering, Curron shook the picture from his head.  What nonsense.  Selliah would never approve of such thoughts.  If he kept at it, he would drive himself insane.
The ceiling of the room was low.  If he stood on the tips of his toes and held his arms stretched up, he could probably brush its surface with his fingertips.  A heavy wooden door without latch or handle was embedded in the wall opposite of him.  Near the top of the door was a barred window that looked out into blackness.  He eyed the window thoughtfully.
Barred?  This was a cell then, probably somewhere within the labyrinth of Fort Gallant’s underground tunnels.  Only once before had he ever stepped foot beyond the darkened lintel that marked passage into the tunnels, and the memory still haunted his nightmares.
He leaned forward, bracing himself to stand.  If he could get a better look through the iron bars, perhaps he could figure out the nature of his prison.  Metal clattered a protest as he moved, and his arms felt extremely heavy and cold.  He glanced down.
Heavy shackles coupled his wrists and ankles together, while four lengths of thick chain, their links about the size of his thumb, wound in and out of the bulky rings welded to the side of each manacle.  The opposite end of every chain was attached to a separate wall.
Curron eyed the chains dubiously and gave them a hard shake.  They rattled together, bashing against the tender underside of his wrists and sending tingles through his fingers.  He let his hands drop back to his side in dismay.  Shackles meant only one thing as far as he knew, and the chains just confirmed it.  Broken scenes from the night before floated back into place, taunting him with their incompleteness: Olan’s mocking voice, Mirra’s screams, the fighting, the blood-lust.  Flashes of color and light flitted through his memory and disappeared again– a knife, a candle, a pair of startling blue eyes…
He cringed.  Even the memory of the feeling was so strong it sent his limbs to shaking.  Olan had despised him for years and the feeling was mutual.  He’d always known it would come to a head, but he never envisioned it ending like this.
He pulled his knees up to his chest and cupped his chin in his hands, trying to recall all the details of the fight, but no matter how he tried, he couldn’t remember the very end.  It must have been bad, he concluded, Else why would I hurt so much, and why am I stuck in his dark hole?  Maybe I got hit on the head.  Maybe that’s why my head hurts so much and I can’t seem to remember clearly.  He reached up to feel his scalp, but except for a few extra dirt particles and a beetle that he untangled from his curls, there was nothing to feel: no blood, no lumps, no bruises.
            He squished the beetle in his hand and flicked its remains across the cell.  So much for that idea.
            The foreboding hammering sound continued, quieter than before, but just as unnerving.  Voices floated through the air from somewhere over Curron’s head, mingling with the sound of clopping hooves and wagon wheels rolling and creaking over stone cobbles.  Curron shifted uneasily and twisted to glance up at the wall he was sitting against.  Near the top was another tiny rectangular window striated with iron bars and open to the air.  Sunlight filtered through the bars, painting the floor of the cell and part of one wall with patches of a lighter grey, tinged yellow.  The sounds of many people and groaning timber wafted in through the window, followed by more banging.  He thought he heard his name.
Bracing himself against the wall, he inched upward until his fingers finally caught the window ledge and wrapped around the iron bars.  Using the bars as handles, he pulled himself upright and peered between them into a colorful, chaotic mess.
People milled all around the courtyard in and out of thick wooden tables and brightly painted carts as they talked to sellers or yelled after spouses. Traveling merchants hawked their wares to anyone interested: a bolt of brilliant cloth dyed from the gold Lauris flowers of Southland, a bottle of red wine from Ereniel in the west, a spool of silk ribbon from the Hahl’eil silk farms east of the Great Forest, a quiver of Bannergoose-fletched arrows from the Wild North.  A band of children chased chickens around and under the legs of people and chairs alike, ignoring the calls of bustling mothers who balanced babies on their hips and browsed through the offered goods.
Curron’s eyes drank in the whole mess.  A thrill coursed through his body. 
Trades Week!  The very first day.  If he were free, he’d be milling around as well, looking for something worthwhile to spend his copper drúggle on, perhaps joining the older boys in a game of Whithle Tag.  The first Trades Week of the month always brought throngs of people through Fort Gallant’s gates.  Most came from Eldin and the surrounding farmland, or they were Búrri traveling from northern Southland to barter.  However, there were always a few roaming traders mixed into the throng, and a gypsy or two hoping to earn coins by entertaining.  The grim, grey place known as Fort Gallant became a blossoming bazaar of vibrant promise.
Then Curron’s eyes fell on something in the middle of the courtyard: a dark blight that defied all color and reared out tall above the crowds of people, grotesque as an open wound.  Black-stained beams of wood formed a raised platform that housed a single mast jutting up from the center like a dark finger.  The mast was reinforced with wood and iron fittings to keep it from falling over, and a long-armed boom reached out from its top as if to scrape open the sky.  A small crowd of people gathered round to watch a man who stood beside the mast pound in iron pegs with a mallet.
Clang, thunk, clang, thunk, clang, thunk!
                        The people pointed and whispered.
Another man sat astride the boom, working with something in his hands.  Minutes later he let the thing drop.  There, tied around the girth of the long, extending arm dangled a thick hemp rope with a loop at the end.
A gallows.
Of course. 
Curron shrank back from the window, cold fear rushing through his veins and wrapping around his heart.  He swallowed hard several times and slumped back against the wall.  This was all his fault.  He’d brought this on himself.  He should never have risen to Olan’s taunts.  If he’d only left the dining hall when he’d had the chance!
The sound of metal being pounded into wood tolled out again, drowning out the people’s whispering voices, filling the air like a mournful dirge.  Curron screwed his eyes shut and clapped his hands over his ears.  Yet without his surroundings to distract him, the black, wooden monster from his dreams tainted his imagination in grisly red.
A frail body dangling in a stark, black wind.  Silver hair swaying before a sweet aged face.  One lone raven circling above, glistening black feathers in stark contrast with the ice blue sky.
That monster was up in the courtyard now, waiting for him, drawn from his nightmares like the devil made flesh.
A huge, misshapen, wooden devil.
Curron swallowed the bile that rose to his throat.
A gallows.  He cringed at the word, wringing trembling hands.  That’s why all the people are really here; to watch me die.


Eldra said...

Wow. I don't even know what to say, except: I WANT MORE!!

Seriously, I couldn't find anything really "wrong" with what you have. There's lots of description, which some people may skip to get to the action, but it was all very beautiful. I wish I could write descriptions the way you do. :)

Hmmm. *glances through again* Nope. I like it. You did an amazing job on it. Now I can't wait to read your book!

Star-Dreamer said...

Ah, thanks Eldra! ^_^ I'm so very glad you like it and want to read more. :)

I do agree though... it has a lot of description. Hmmm... but I've rewritten it several times (meaning to cut out description) and I just can't seem to cut it very well. :( See, what I'm going for with this scene is Curron's confusion... I really wanted him to wake up and not really remember how he'd come to be where he was. That way, everything would seem rather new to him, just like it did for the readers, and I was hoping that this approach would somehow really drive the peril home in Curron's gut. If you know what I mean. I hope that's how it works, anyway.

I'm so glad you like my discriptions! :) That makes me so happy! *does 'happy' jig*

Galadriel said...

Definately suspense-producing

Lisa Rose said...

This was very easy to read. The only part that I was a little iffy on was how long it took him to notice the chains. I would have thought that he would feel them around his wrists before he even opened his eyes. Maybe that recognition could help you get to the realization that it's a cell sooner to cut some of that description? Just a suggestion since you said you were looking to cut. I like the descriptions a lot and soo wish I could describe things so fluidly like you do. Best of luck with your plans to twart the evil Inner-Editor!

Star-Dreamer said...

Ah, good idea, Lisa. :) That would definitely cut some stuff. You're absolutely right... she should probably notice that right off. Thanks!

Star-Dreamer said...

I meant "He". *blush* Curron doesn't cross-dress... O_o

Jake said...

I'll get to edi—-er, READING this right away. I'm too busy right now to read it, unfortunately.

^_^ Don't expect me to go easy. ;) I shall nitpick, if that's all right. I have the Bryan Davis Revision Plan by my side. O_o I learned a lot from that fellow about revision...

Anyway, see ya then.

Star-Dreamer said...

Go at it, Jake. ;) That's what it's up there for. :D

The Director said...

Okay, five things:

Firstly, your Esma quote made me massively happy. Seriously. :D

Secondly, that was the coolest thing I've ever read. Massively so. I want to read the whole thing now, seriously!

(Onto some minor critique. I don't have anything big, just a sentence fix or such.)

Thirdly, when Curron first wakes up and rubs the back of his head, wouldn't he notice the chains on his wrist then? Instead he doesn't notice them until he stands up. So in my opinion, either don't have him rub his head or have him notice the chains earlier. (But I wouldn't do the latter, I like how you played it out.)

Fourthly, when he expects Teagh to reply, "“I’ll take what help I can get, ye lout. If it’s not from the likes of you, then the dead might as well try their hands at it.”. It was better the second time I read it through, but my first impression was that his imagined reply was a little too long and thus, we got lost because of it. (Does that make sense??)

Fifthly, this was perfect:
Heavy shackles coupled his wrists and ankles together, while four lengths of thick chain, their links about the size of his thumb, wound in and out of the bulky rings welded to the side of each manacle. The opposite end of every chain was attached to a separate wall.

You paced the whole thing out perfectly, I felt. The suspense wasn't too drawn out, or too fast. Curron's realization of where he was and what was happening seemed believable to me. So, without further ado, *stands and applauds*

Star-Dreamer said...

Ah! :D Thank you, Director. :) That makes me really happy. :)

And I'm glad you like that line, too... I wasn't sure if I should cut it or not. I was debating.

I'm thinking about making him notice the chains earlier... a person who was chained probably would... but I just can't decide for sure. Well, however it plays out, I will post the "fixed" version when I get it done. :)

And I've had "Emperor's new groove" on the brain lately... I have no idea why...

"Is that my voice? Is that MY voice? Oh well..." ;D

Jake said...

Maybe that's how it sounds, but "Ungggh." sounds kind of awkward. O_o

"Curron rolled over and buried his face in his hands." (OO) I didn't know it was possible! ;) I'd suggest revision there to get rid of that phrase. It's along the same lines as "throwing up your hands" (gross!).

"I’m up already!" Is there supposed to be a comma there? :)

"Normally this would have earned him a retort; something like, “I’ll take what help I can get, ye lout. If it’s not from the likes of you, then the dead might as well try their hands at it.” Today, however, there was nothing."

Perhaps you can revise that section to make it more active. Like, "Curron waited for the normal retort—something along the lines of, "I'll take what help I can get, ye lout"—but none came."

How can opening an eye cause so much pain (referring to the paragraph immediately following)?

What is this place? he wondered.

By stating that "he wondered" it, you pulled the reader out of your character's head. A normal character wouldn't think a thought, and add, "he wondered". Intimate POV is essential. :)

You can fix it by just cutting the "he wondered" and un-italicize, replacing "is" with "was".

"What was this place? Certainly..."

It flows better. :)

"If this isn’t my room, he thought, and it most certainly isn’t – then where am I?"

Same principle here. Revise it to something like "If this wasn't his room, and it most certainly wasn't—then where was he?" to get a more intimate POV.

Wouldn't he have noticed that he was wearing shackles earlier? They're kind of... noticeable. o_O

I think there are some instances where you don't need the italics. :)

"dubiously" Adverb alert! :O Cut all adverbs! Termination!

If you want to give the feel that he's eying them dubiously, either find a better verb or just leave it. It sounds good without "dubiously" too. :)

Or you could keep it. O_o Most adverbs need to be cut, though, because they point to a weaker verb.

Cut "in dismay". :)

Cut "taunting them with their incompleteness". It makes the following sentences more powerful. Keep things short and sweet in vivid sections. :)

Cut the section where he is thinking in italics, and rewrite the sentence about feeling his scalp accordingly. This'll keep the readers wondering—-no need to tell them that it was bad, because it HAS to have been bad for him to be in there. We're smart, we'll figure it out. :) They'll have more questions if you cut this out.

Cut "foreboding" in "the foreboding hammering sound". It'll make the hammering sound itself more effective; we'll FEEL that it's foreboding rather than being told that it is.

Jake said...

Cut "uneasily" and show a little more how Curron is uneasy.

"A band of children chased chickens around and under the legs of people and chairs alike, ignoring the calls of bustling mothers who balanced babies on their hips and browsed through the offered goods." Make the children and the mothers and the babies singular. Just one child and mother and baby—-it'll be more precise and effective that way.

"The grim, grey place known as Fort Gallant became a blossoming bazaar of vibrant promise." If you want to get across that Fort Gallant was grim and grey, except in Trades Week, then compare and contrast in the earlier sentences instead of having this one.

Now, for the good stuff.

I really like Curron. (: He's a great character.

The writing quality and description is creative and fresh. Nothing like good description—-it's like drinking a glass of cold water.

You really played the suspense of the gallows well, and foreshadowed the hammering noise. It was masterfully done.

Don't let my critiques get to you. I really, really like this. :D Fantastic job. If the rest of the novel is like this, let me at it! I want to read! :)

Star-Dreamer said...

Oo, good suggestions Jake! :) Very helpful.

Adverbs: yes, I shake my fist at them! But I try to keep them sparse for the most part. Perhaps, "He gave them a dubious shake" would work better?

How can opening an eye cause so much pain? Well, you might have to read chapter 2 for that answer! ;) Besides, I've had headaches like that... they are TERRIBLE! Even small amounts of light make it feel like everything is spinning around you and your head feels like it's caught in a vice. I tried to compare his headache to my experience with headaches, but perhaps I should clarify. :)

One child, one mother, one baby? Good idea... but I'm going for the crowd effect. And naturally a mother would brink her children to the market with her... I certainly wouldn't trust my younger siblings at home alone... the house would be wrecked!!! :D But I will try to make it sound less repetative... I mean, rereading that sentence, I could almost see three mothers all calling out the same thing at the same time... not what I wanted. I'll work with that. :)

Thank you for all the advice!!! Very helpful in the rewrite.


Jake said...

You're welcome! :)

The reason I suggested that is because, rather than a crowd effect, I got the feel that all of the mothers and children were doing the same thing, like mind-controlled zombies or something. (OO) By making it singular and then adding other details for other people, you might maximize the crowd effect, but whichever seems best. :)

*nodnod* All right!

The dubious shake thing sounds great. :D

And once again, glad to help!

Star-Dreamer said...

*nod* Exactly! And I most certainly am NOT going for the mind controlled zombie effect. :P Which, rereading it, is what I found it was sounding like. Blech. That will definitely be fixed.

Star-Dreamer said...

The Chapter opening! It is rewritten! :D I just finished the revision and took it to a writing consultant friend (whom I think is an awesome person in general on top of being a great writer and knowledgeable in the art of creative writing. <3) And we went over it. She gave me her opinions and I tweaked, and now I believe the opening is finally good enough that I can move on. YAY!!!

I'll try and post the new chapter opening sometime at the beginning of August for any of you who read this and are interested. Thanks for all the help, you guys! Very appreciated.

Jake said...

All right! I look forward to it! *sinis—-er, happy laugh*